Review Summary: "I don't wanna keep going in the same progression"
"With hope in our hands, we wanted more than what we'd give. You can scream 'til you're dead, it won't make it better. We broke everything."
Placebo is an album largely focused on damaged people living in broken down places. It's about addiction, domestic abuse, and the vicious cycles created in violent homes. Vocalist Justin Cotton seems to be unfortunately familiar with all of this. From track to track with a voice full of emotion and sincerity, he sings, screams, and yes, even raps, lyrics that clearly come from a very personal place. Despite the sadness that comes with the topics at play here, there is an undeniable beauty in the honesty and the delivery, and it's such a refreshing thing to hear. Though he certainly isn't the only talented member of The New Age, Justin is the one at the center of it all, and his performance will more than likely make or break the album for a lot of listeners. He seems to be able to do pretty much whatever the hell he wants with his voice, but the voice itself has a certain polarizing quality to it.
This album has been in the making for quite some time. Too damn long, many fans of the band would say. The "Think Too Much Feel Too Little" EP came out four years ago and the band ran into many roadblocks while trying to get this album done. The EP was, for the most part, a full blown metalcore album with some added flavor. Anyone expecting this to sound like an obvious follow-up will be surprised to find a large shift away from the speed and aggression found on much of their previous work. Placebo lands pretty firmly in the post-hardcore camp. Breakdowns have been replaced by atmosphere and keys, screams have been dialed back, in-your-face riffs have been replaced by massive melodies an overall larger soundscape. And it works.
The New Age proved that they had songwriting chops on the EP. There was actually creativity at play, something so rarely heard in metalcore. Four years later they sound as confident as ever, and despite the sound shift, the new material still has their sound signature written all over it. The production is well done, emphasizing the big sound that the album is going for. You can even hear the bass guitar. Shocking, I know. There is very little "look what I can do!" playing going on on the instrumental department. The lead guitar gets some stand-out melodies, and surprises like the solo that comes ripping out of nowhere on "Save Me" are always welcome, but much of the focus here ends up being on the whole sound rather than the individual parts. This really ends up being to the album's benefit, as the complete sound is really easy to sink into. It absorbs the listener and allows them to easily focus on every detail.
The best thing this album has going for it is that I can't think of another album to compare it to. Sure, the typical genre boxes get ticked, but there's so much more going on here, and it's written and executed in such an interesting way that I can't help but applaud the band. Did I absolutely love every track" Nah, some even underwhelmed me a little bit. Sometimes they drag a little. Sometimes I just flat out didn't like some of things the band tried. But they did try it, and not in any half-assed way either, and that's worth something in a genre that can be oh so dull. Love it or hate it, this album is different. This band is different, and I hope we don't have to wait another four years to hear what they do next.